When I was in my third year at the University of Waterloo, I lived in the west end of town, off Keats Way. My commute by bicycle commute was generally quite enjoyable by North American standards, it took place almost entirely on quiet streets or in dedicated bicycle lanes. And it was very fast too! The 2.1 km trip took about 8 minutes, and if I was lucky with the one traffic signal, I could make the entire trip home without stopping once.
Here was my route, categorized by my comfort level (green is relaxed, red is stressed):
The worst part of my journey was making the right turn off University Avenue onto Keats Way. Right-turning cyclists share the right turn lane with motor traffic turning right, which often results in motorists speeding past and cutting in front of cyclists to save a few seconds. Even when drivers would remain a safe and respectful distance behind, I felt pressured to ride quickly to avoid delaying them, adding stress to my otherwise relaxed commute.
Cyclists travelling straight along University are also exposed to this same conflict, as the bicycle lane runs between the through lanes and the right turn lane. While it’s not statistically clear that this is actually a dangerous situation, it certainly feels very unsafe – making cycling along this route an unattractive prospect for the majority of people.
Keeping the bike lanes always on the right of the traffic lane rather than merging them together would completely eliminate interactions with motor traffic for right-turning cyclists. This would move the conflict point onto the actual intersection for through cyclists, where it can be addressed separately.
I think that the best solution here would be fully-protected signal phases. This means that turning cars and bicycles would each have their own dedicated signal, which only allows one to proceed while the other is stopped at a red signal.
The usual way of managing this conflict – where turning cars yield to bikes and pedestrians – would be considerably more dangerous. In order to allow large vehicles such as GRT’s Route 29 bus to make the turn, the corner radius needs to be very large. This would then translate to high turning speeds for cars, which increases the risk that a car fail to yield to a cyclist or pedestrian crossing Keats Way.
Here’s what the intersection could look like with protected bike paths and traffic signals:
Protected signal phases can actually be implemented efficiently here because the bulk of the movements are compatible with each other. For the most part, people are travelling straight along University or turning off Keats Way to/from the east.
Hardly anyone makes a left turn from University to Keats Way or a right turn off Keats Way onto University since this would be basically sending them back the way they came. This last signal phase would therefore hardly ever occur: